German flag carrier, Lufthansa and a major flight attendants union are taking a timeout to reconsider their positions after a warning strike on Sunday forced the airline to cancel around 150 flights. Lufthansa appeared to be caught off-guard after the Independent Flight Attendants Organisation (UFO) extended last weekend’s walkout at four subsidiaries by 13-hours.
Flight attendants at Lufthansa CityLine, Eurowings, Germanwings and Sunexpress downed tools until midnight on Sunday after Lufthansa refused a 2 per cent pay rise. Executives at the airline took less than an hour to reject the demand after offering the same pay rise to flight attendants at the Lufthansa mainline brand in order to avoid a separate strike.
Despite offering a €200 bonus payment for any flight attendant who was willing to break the strike, Lufthansa still faced significant disruption on the day. Leading up to the strike, the airline had warned flight attendants they faced disciplinary action and even dismissal if they took part in the walkout.
Lawyers acting for the airline decided not to apply for an injunction to stop the strike despite insisting the action was illegal.
Appearing to be seriously wrongfooted by the scale of participation in the walkout, the airline was allegedly forced to cancel many flights after passengers had already got to the departure gate. Lufthansa initially claims 90 per cent of flight attendants scheduled to work turned up as planned but the union claims that number was closer to just 50 per cent.
But while the UFO says that more strike action could be announced at any time, it has ruled out any further walkouts this week – a small but significant olive branch.
A formal industrial action ballot is currently underway and the results are expected to be announced on the 1st November – if flight attendants vote in favour of industrial action, the union could announce unlimited strikes.